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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Practice Made Perfect...., 13 Feb. 2006
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This review is from: Chairs Missing (Audio CD)
Wire were one of the few pioneers who took punk as an ethos rather than a fashionable uniform, 1977's classic debut 'Pink Flag' is remembered for the minimal songs which lasted a minute, or in some cases seconds (it's probably celebrated lots for having the original version of Elastica's 'Connection' on - 'Three Girl Rhumba'). But there were hints of things to come on 'Pink Flag' - the catchy-bleakness of 'Lowdown', the sinister rock of 'Reuters' & the whirring avant-pop of 'Strange' (later murdered by REM). 'Chairs Missing' followed these oblique directions and those advanced by 'I am the Fly' and 'Dot Dash' - though at the time Wire were probably tagged prog by those who didn't understand (Magazine also suffered from this with their great second LP 'Secondhand Daylight').
'Chairs Missing' these days seems to me one of the most influential albums, its blend of the angular, the avant, and something like pop can be detected in records found in its immediate wake - 'Dirk'-Adam & the Ants, Gang of Four, the Pop Group, 'No New York', Matt Johnson ('Burning Blue Soul' even featured Newman & Lewis) etc - and many that came after : Elastica, Blur, Franz Ferdinand, Minor Threat (who covered 12XU), Spoon, Radiohead, R.E.M. Wire are now cited as one of the key acts of the post-punk era alongside Pere Ubu, The Fall, Joy Division, Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle & PIL. And why not???
Opener 'Practise Makes Perfect' opens with hypnotic guitar Gilbert & Newman's composition the definition of angular as the song builds around repetition: WAITING, WAITING...and they tap into another world. Drones, metronomic-basslines and chiming riffs populate this record, 'French Film Blurred' shifting from warm avant-guitars to hints of feedback - a record that blurs from avant to disturb. 'Another the Letter' shows the band embrace synths, something they would advance on with the follow-up '154', the single 'A Question of Degree' (Depeche Mode's 'A Question of Time' obviously influenced) and the years on Mute that saw great albums like 'The Ideal Copy', 'A Bell is a Cup Until It Is Struck' & 'Manscape.' Wire here don't care about duration, and were duly viewed as prog - 'Practice Makes Perfect' about four-times as long as the average 'Pink Flag' track, while 'Mercy' pushes the six-minute mark and pushes towards later joys like 'A Touching Display' and 'Mutual Friend.'
There is pop, of sorts, here - including the bizarre (yet ineffably catchy) 'I Feel Mysterious Today', Lewis' math-glam-rocker 'Sand In My Joints' (imagine The Sweet after 'Marquee Moon'), and the gorgeous 'Outdoor Miner'- which is as sweet as a pop-song by Squeeze and predicts catchy later joys like 'Eardrum Buzz', 'Map Ref...', 'The 15th' and 'Kidney Bingos' (Lush would also cover it, if that means anything to you?). Single 'I am the Fly' is another key pop-moment, that metronomic-angular rock-pop in motion, I always think of Sparks' 'This Town Ain't Big Enough for Both of Us' as it starts, though as seasoned riff-watchers will tell you, Blur's 'Girls & Boys', Elastica's 'Line Up', & Menswear's 'Daydreamer' all owe this one a bit of a debt (the sound of the mid 1990s, in the late 1970s!). The legendary Lester Bangs even wrote of this album's joys in the article 'A Bellyful of Wire' which is collected in 'Mainlines, Blood Feasts & Bad Taste.'
The highlight for me remains 'Heartbeat', one of the more epic tracks and a song that was later covered by Big Black (on the free single with the 'Headache' e.p.) and Low (a version was recorded in the early 1990s and was later reworked in 2004 to appear on box-set 'A Lifetime of Temporary Relief'). Bangs' saw Beckett here and reminded us of the bleak/minimal lyrics: "I feel icy/I feel cold/I feel old/Is there something behind me?/I'm sublime/I'm empty/I feel dark, I remark/I am mesmerised by my own beat/Like a heartbeat-" Great stuff and leading towards the darker, wider climes of 1979's masterpiece '154.'
'Chairs Missing' is the second part of the great trilogy Wire recorded for Harvest and a highlight of the late 1970s, as important as 'Unknown Pleasures', 'Metal Box', 'Cut', 'Y', 'Fear of Music', 'Real Life', 'Entertainment!' & lots of other records namechecked in lists and covered in 'Rip It Up and Start Again.' A great trilogy that was followed, after the art-**** of 'Document & Eyewitness' by Colin Newman's fantastic 'A/Z', the A.C Marias-Dome & He Said-projects and the return of a muter Wire (later Wir). Fantastic stuff, though Wire's recent work is as vital, as is Newman's label Swim...
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 27 Jul 2013 09:35:50 BDT
Quite apart from the "listmania" (jesus, have we come to this?) I'm curious to know if you actually like the album?
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